Wordle is the new phenomenon taking the internet by storm. If you are not already addicted to it, you should have at least seen the green, yellow and grey boxes on your social media feed somewhere.

Created by Josh Wardle for his partner, the game has since been bought over by the New York Times for a seven-digit figure. For a game that was originally just for the two of them, it has grown to attract millions of players daily.

It has also spawned a bunch of websites piggybacking on the idea, many of which have also become a routine for the Wordle players who just cannot get enough. Dordle, Quordle, Octordle, and Sedordle, feature two, four, eight, and sixteen words of the day respectively. Worldle and Globle players have to guess a mystery country while those who prefer numbers can try Nerdle or Numberle. Niche groups have also created their own, including Byrdle for choral music lovers, Squirdle for Pokemon fans, and Star Wordle for Star Wars enthusiasts.

With its wide-reaching influence that does not seem to be slowing down, let us look at 4 ways that Wordle is effective and how we can apply it to digital learning programmes.


The rules are basic and easy to understand

For those unfamiliar with how Wordle works, you have six tries to guess the five-letter word of the day. A green box indicates that the letter is in the correct spot. A yellow box shows that the letter can be found in the word but it is not at the right spot. A grey box indicates that the word does not have this letter.

The website does well in explaining the rules simply, providing clear examples. The website itself is also clean and minimalistic, without unnecessary functions.

Similarly, learning platforms should have a clean user interface with clear instructions. There should be instant user feedback and concepts should be illustrated with examples or knowledge checks. These make sure the learner fully understands what they are taught.


Content is bite-sized and takes a short time to complete

Previous research shows that our attention spans are getting shorter but the pandemic is likely to have made it even worse. If you have not been distracted while reading this post so far, kudos to your attention span! But considering we are known to be quick to jump to the next new thing, it says a lot that Wordle has the hold it has today.

A big draw of Wordle is how fast you can complete it. I took way too long to figure out words like “Vivid” and “Swill” but most games should take less than 10 minutes. The low time and effort required are some of the reasons why the New York Times wanted to get involved. “It appeals to so many people, in part because it’s easy and quick to do every day,” said Jonathan Knight, the General Manager for Games at the New York Times, in a statement. This is compared to their more difficult and time-consuming crosswords which have been the biggest mainstay of the New York Times Games.

Wordle’s short playtime makes it easy to integrate into your daily routine and online learning should be as easy too. You can help learners by breaking your content down into bite-sized chunks. Purposefully taking out time to ingest a full two-hour lecture may turn some learners away as most people do not have that time. Additionally, having your content easily accessible on the go also helps as they may have some extra pockets of time while commuting or waiting throughout their day.

Releasing one puzzle a day also ensures that players are not overwhelmed and creates a form of scarcity that makes the game interesting. It is almost like giving them a bite to whet their appetite but not giving them enough to make them satiated so they will come back again. Creating this appetite for more can be applied when running your e-learning programmes too. For example, instead of bombarding your learners with all your content, you may choose to release them in intervals.


It engages your brain and makes you feel smart

Most of us need cognition. We enjoy keeping our brains active and love a good brain teaser. Compared to other forms of mobile games, Wordle makes us feel more productive and intellectual while allowing us to take a break as well. Such games are also said to improve our brain health.

More importantly, it gives us an ‘aha’ moment when the answer is revealed, giving us a sudden influx of fluency. Social psychologist Matt Baldwin says that this is something our brain is hard-wired to pursue and this keeps us coming back for more.

Hence, effective forms of online learning should also include the same ‘aha’ moments. An example would be including knowledge checks or questions along the way to engage the learner cognitively as they try to solve it on their own. It is also important that there is no clear, direct answer and the questions would require some thinking. Overcoming these challenges would bring about a stronger sense of satisfaction as it releases a surge of dopamine.

Wordle also encourages creative thinking and problem solving as there are multiple ways to arrive at the correct answer, albeit some routes are a little longer than others. In online learning experiences, you can use different discussion, forum, question, and poll functionalities on your e-learning platform to foster similar creative thinking behaviours. All answers should be encouraged.


It is social and you don't feel alone

One of the biggest factors contributing to Wordle’s success is the ability to share your spoiler-free results with others. If I guessed a word in 2 tries, I would immediately want to share it with the people around me so that they can celebrate this achievement with me. After all, in the past two months of playing, I’ve only ever got this once. This tweet accurately sums up how it feels.



Sharing your score on social media or with others also comes with a sense of competitiveness. It is almost like saying “Beat that!”

It can be seen as a form of intellectual bragging but it also helps create a shared experience. This creates a niche crowd, an in-crowd, where you can feel like you belong to something. Having this community is especially important in a time when many people are feeling disconnected from others.

“More intensive social experiences are harder to come by right now,” Katy Pearce, Associate Professor in Communication at the University of Washington tells Vox. “People just lack [the] bandwidth to interact.” So Wordle presents itself as an easy way of generating conversation by achieving a straightforward daily task. Hence, this can be fodder for workplace conversations, and it can also bring families and friends together. My mother excitedly sent me a text while I was at work yesterday, boasting about her good Wordle and Quordle score, exclaiming that it was a “good day”.

E-learning can also have a social aspect. Many digital learning platforms have social capabilities to encourage users to learn together. One way is using leaderboards and rewards where learners in the same community can compete to see who scores the best or consumes the most content. Creating some healthy competition would motivate some learners to push themselves as learning becomes a social activity. Other social functions could include checking in with each other on the platform to prevent learners from feeling isolated.

With about 15 million tweets about Wordle since its release, Wordle has rallied many people around the world. It seems that it is only getting more popular. I, for one, know that I would be pretty upset if I break my current 57-day-streak so I guess I have no choice but to come back each day to keep it. Its immense success can teach us many lessons on making our e-learning modules more engaging, with greater reach. Who knows? Your content might be the next viral hit!

If you are observant, you would have noticed that there is a Wordle puzzle created in the headings of this post. If you know the answer, write in to us at hello@smartup.io – I heard there may be prizes!